On this day, the last day of the Presidency of Barack Obama, I want to reflect on what the last eight years have meant to someone who lives in a bright blue dot in the middle of a sea of red in the State of Kansas. I love where I live and I love the people I choose to surround myself with, but I know that I would feel very differently if I were living in a more conservative part of Kansas. I got lucky because my parents, who are not from Lawrence, chose to raise their family here. They recognized that, not only did Lawrence make sense for a mother and father who were working in different cities, one in Topeka and one in Kansas City, but that Lawrence was a great place to make memories and to raise children who would grow up to care about those around them and have empathy for people and situations that some may not otherwise.
In 2008, I was an avid supporter of everything Barack Obama stood for. Seven years prior, I was a sophomore in college when the attacks of September 11th happened and I was tired of seeing friends and former schoolmates come home from a war that never should have happened, broken and battered, and even a few in flag-draped coffins. This wasn’t what I wanted for my future and wasn’t how I’d envisioned things turning out for my peers. I was ready for a change and to have hope again and Barack Obama was the answer to those needs.
(Via Business Insider)
(Via Business Insider)
(Via Business Insider)
Affordable Care Act
Several years ago, my dad retired from his career of 40+ years. Upon his retirement, he was old enough to qualify for Medicare, but my mom, who had been a stay-at-home mom since I was 8, when she took a buy-out from Santa Fe Railroad, won’t be 65 until this August. Once the COBRA insurance from his company ran out, my mom was able to get a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. After all of the compromises and blockades, it still wasn’t the best plan, but it was something.
About a year ago, after months and months of my mom’s health continually deteriorating and of her abdomen growing for no known reason, we convinced her that she needed to say something to her doctor. Her primary doctor brushed it off as nothing, but when she was able to see her gastroenterologist, she was immediately sent to the hospital. Something was clearly wrong and we assumed it was some kind of cancer. It was actually cirrhosis of the liver, which was a side effect of over 30 years of medication for her Multiple Sclerosis and Ulcerative Colitis. This medication was the only thing that has made her day-to-day activities tolerable, but the consequence of that was that a woman who I have seen drink only one sip of beer her entire life, now faces an eventual liver transplant, but her liver counts aren’t “bad enough” to be put on that list yet.
Since that diagnosis, my parents have had to jump through hoop after hoop to get my mom the medical care she needed. The specialists at KU Medical Center were not covered by her original Marketplace plan, so she has been bounced back and forth with phone call after phone call trying to get an exception to be seen by the doctors who could actually help her condition. I was able to navigate the Marketplace and get her signed up for an insurance plan for 2017 that will actually cover the doctors she needs, but that doesn’t come without a price tag. Her monthly premium and annual deductible are astronomical, but at least she has the ability to see her specialist when she needs to now.
We are lucky in one sense. . . she only has to be covered through August. They couldn’t possibly kill the Affordable Care Act before then, right? But, as I’ve listened to what Congress is trying to do to the existing system by taking away guarantees for pre-existing conditions, it makes my stomach turn.
Like millions of other Americans, I have pre-existing conditions that would prevent me from being able to obtain my own health insurance if I didn’t work for a company that provided the benefit to their employees in the future. Josh is a contractor and receives no health insurance benefits through his company. I’m not the only one in this boat if the proposed changes are made to the Affordable Care Act.
If the Affordable Care Act is removed, thousands of Americans, just like my mother, could die because they have no other insurance options. Medical insurance companies have always been in the game to make money, not to actually help make people better. If people get the treatment they need, long term, the companies could go out of business. What reason do they actually have to help people?
That’s what made the Affordable Care Act so great. It’s not perfect. . . I don’t proclaim that, at all. But, it’s better than nothing and it’s certainly better than removing the pre-existing condition clause that allowed many Americans to get health insurance for the first time in their lives.
Without President Obama pushing for this change to the American landscape, this would not have happened, and I am forever grateful that he was able to champion this cause.
I would also like to take a moment to reflect on the changes that have happened in the LGBTQIA community over the last 8 years. I have several very close friends who identify with this community and have always supported equality and equity for every human being. Without the leadership of President Obama, it is very unlikely (especially if we had elected John McCain or Mitt Romney) that any advancement would have been made for Gay Rights over the last 8 years.
One of my favorite moments of the past 4 years was seeing photos of the White House lit up with rainbow colors on the day the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states and all U.S. territories. On that day, I joined friends in sharing happy tears for something that was far too long in the making.
I’m certain there are other defining factors that people will take away from Barack Obama’s Presidency. There are far too many positives to get into in a single writing. But today, I implore others to take a moment to reflect on how the country has changed in the last 8 years and encourage everyone not to allow positive forward movement to stop with the inauguration of a new President.
The things we have accomplished in the last 8 years do not have to stop here. Millions of Americans voted for a candidate who would have made it a priority to continue moving forward. Millions of other Americans did not. Today is the last day we have to be comfortable. Tomorrow, if you’re not already fighting for what’s right, I encourage you to pick up the baton and continue fighting for what you believe in to make the world around you a kinder, and gentler place.
But for today, remember how amazing this man has been and be grateful for the time we had this “once in a lifetime” President. Thank you, Mr. President!
P.S. The Daily Beast did a great job of putting together a selection of Pete Souza’s photos from the last 8 years.